Some musings on life, the Universe, and everything, with a certain francophile accent. To be updated on Mondays or when we feel like it.
Right. Let’s get it on.
First topic: Hiking.
In small villages in SE France, in the department of Alpes-Maritimes, you here and there find these poles with signs pointing towards mountaintops, passes, and other small villages. Even in fairly large towns you may find them, and out in the countryside. These poles are called ‘balises’, they are numbered, and they are marked on the IGN topographical maps. They are there to point out hiking trails of very different degree of difficulty. Between them, along the trail, you may find small dabs of color, either yellow, signifying a local trail (”petit randonnée”), or white and red, signifying one of the ‘larger’ trails that connect e g Nice with Marseille (true!) known as ”grande randonnée”. On the web site Randoxygéne you will find a wealth of described and fairly well laid out hikes, easiest being ”Difficulté Facile”, mounting to ”Difficulté Alpine” which means climbing gear. The descriptions are in a printable format, they have previously existed in the form of a set of brochures but, they are, apparently, out of print.
What do you need for a summer hike?
- Consult weather forecast. Twice. You do not, repeat not, want to get stuck in a mountain thunder storm.
- Shoes. Good shoes. NOT jogging shoes. NOT sandals. You need hiking boots.
- Water. Drink regularly. Remember, when you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. You will then make unwise decisions, lose your way, et c.
- Munchies, salt and sweet. You lose a lot of sweat, so you need salt. You lose a lot of energy, so, something to regain it.
- Never forget the Oz meme, ”slip slap slop” (slip on a T-shirt, slap on a hat, slop on sunscreen)
- Map. The ”Carte de Randonnée” is required.
Other things that may come in nicely are walking sticks (the ”Oy, yew fergot your SKIS, mate” kind), an altimeter (each ascension of 100 meters calls for water break), and a fresh T to change into when you get back to civilisation. You might have some fun with your smartphone GPS – we find them largely useless when out and about but they make nice tracks to look at and admire when you get home.
A few cold beers in the fridge for when you get home is nice.
The nature in Alpes-Maritimes is in places spectacularly beautiful, in some places outlandish. If you love butterflies, you’ve come to the right place. Some flowers, some birds (but on a hot summer day they are not very active).
You will most likely find yourself alone on the trail. WE rarely run into other people – sometimes a French hiking club, sometimes a bewildered Dutch couple, once a young man in suit, tie, and white shirt who refused to believe that the maps were correct and besides, he had an appointment … (in fact, sign of dehydration, there). Christina claims that he was, in fact, the person who would later become the Mayor of a certain large town in the department, but I am not certain.